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DeFranks: If tight win is any indication, BCS hopes could be fading (Nov. 4)

Matthew DeFranks | Sunday, November 3, 2013

 

No. 25 Notre Dame was hit by a wave Saturday afternoon.

The Irish were hit by a wave of Midshipmen racing around the edge. They were hit by 331 rushing yards. They were hit by Navy senior safety Wave Ryder. They were hit by a wave of injuries. Even fans hit the Irish with a wave when they did it with 14:20 left in the game and Notre Dame down by three points.

But more than anything, the Irish were hit by a wave of reality during their 38-34 win over the Midshipmen on Saturday.

Notre Dame must play better if it is to fulfill its goals of finishing 10-2 and reaching a BCS bowl game.

The offense did its best to keep up with Navy’s, but the Irish defense had trouble stopping Navy. Giving up nearly five yards per rush and four touchdown runs to a service academy is not a good omen for Notre Dame when they face BYU’s up-tempo, run-centric offense or when they face Stanford’s bruising offensive front.

Notre Dame was pounded up the middle by Navy’s fullbacks (sophomore Chris Swain and junior Quinton Singleton combined for 162 yards) and gashed on the outside by sophomore quarterback Keenan Reynolds (three rushing touchdowns). The Irish secondary was torched on one touchdown drive for 52 yards through the air, twice what Navy had prior to the drive.

The Irish defense that had been rounding into form took a huge step backwards Saturday afternoon. Navy converted on 10 of 16 third downs, turned all four red-zone trips into touchdowns and held the ball for nearly two-thirds of the game.

Prior to Saturday, the Notre Dame defense had been forcing turnovers and keeping teams off the scoreboard. They had not allowed a second-half point since the Arizona State game and took the ball away every game since Oklahoma. Navy scored 14 second-half points and failed to turn the ball over.

While the box score may indicate that Navy played mistake-free football, two key errors foiled the Mids’ upset bid. A missed extra point in the second quarter made Navy’s late deficit four points instead of three and a fumbled pitch put them in a third-and-long position.

Without those two mistakes on routine plays, the Midshipmen could have knocked off the Irish and wiped out Notre Dame’s season.

Now, junior linebacker Ben Councell is wiped out for the year with a knee injury and the Irish defensive front is as thin as it has ever been. Councell was forced to play as a down lineman on Saturday even though he is supposed to be dropping into coverage and not into the ground.

By the end of the game Saturday evening, Notre Dame had pieced together a front seven that included seldom-used graduate student Tyler Stockton. They were without Councell, Louis Nix, Sheldon Day, Kona Schwenke, Ishaq Williams, Jarrett Grace, Tony Springmann, Chase Hounshell, Danny Spond and any semblance of the 2012 defense.

They are going to need to find the defense from a few games ago in order to win out and punch their tickets to the BCS

And if this Navy game is any indication, they are close to waving goodbye to the BCS.

Contact Matthew DeFranks at mdefrank@nd.edu
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.